Wednesday 26 July 2017

Leo: 'Diversity is not just about picking women'

Taoiseach: 'My Cabinet is very diverse - but we need more women TDs'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, centre, unveils his male-dominated line-up of junior ministers this week. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, centre, unveils his male-dominated line-up of junior ministers this week. Photo: Steve Humphreys

John Downing, Niall O'Connor and Sarah Collins

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says his Cabinet is very diverse as it features people from all across Ireland, different religions and members of the LGBT community.

The new leader of Fine Gael found himself at the centre of a fresh storm this week when it emerged he had appointed fewer female ministers than his predecessor Enda Kenny.

Criticism followed from Mary Mitchell O'Connor, who was demoted to his junior ministerial team. Ms Mitchell O'Connor said that "power and success doesn't just come in a pinstripe suit".

"I am very conscious that the Government itself is not leading by example," she told the WXN Ireland's Most Powerful Women event.

Mr Varadkar has appointed seven women out of 35 positions at the Cabinet table and in junior minister roles. This is one fewer than Mr Kenny.

But Mr Varadkar responded to the mounting criticism yesterday, saying there was more to diversity than promoting women, and insisting: "I don't think diversity, by the way, is just about gender".

Speaking in Brussels, he said that a lack of female ministers is down to a lack of female TDs in the Dáil.

Read More: FG leader trying to 'goad us' into early election, say FF TDs

He moved to highlight the wide range of different types of people holding ministerial positions in the Government.

"I would like to see a lot more women in politics. I'm somebody who believes in diversity. I don't think diversity, by the way, is just about gender," the Taoiseach said.

"I think other things matter too, and we do have a very diverse Cabinet," he said.

Backgrounds

"People from different religious backgrounds, and people from Donegal to Wexford, and, of course, people who are members of the LGBT community, and people who are from all sorts of backgrounds."

Mr Varadkar said the Government membership was always based on the Dáil make-up, and numbers of women in Cabinet were always based on the numbers of women TDs supporting government.

Mr Varadkar said that a total of 58 people supported the current minority coalition - 12 are women, and of those seven are ministers, five are the Cabinet table, and one of them is the Tánaiste.

"What happens in politics is that your ministerial team generally reflects the composition of the Dáil," Mr Varadkar said.

"What I need to do as party leader in particular is to make sure we have many more women in our next parliamentary party so that I can promote many more women," he said.

"I would absolutely like to see more gender diversity in my ministerial team, and also in the Dáil and in politics."

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar also spoke about being the country's first openly gay Taoiseach in a speech delivered at an LGBT event this week.

"Some people are surprised that not everyone in the LGBT community supports my policies or even celebrated my election as Taoiseach. In fact, some LGBT activists get quite annoyed when I don't agree with them on every other issue.

"But I think that is actually a good and a healthy thing because the LGBT community is not a political monolith where everyone thinks the same or believes the same," he said.

Ghetto

"If it was, it would be a political ghetto and I don't think we want to have any of that. It is, of course, a diverse community in itself, with people from all sorts of opinions, left, right and centre, secular, religious, pro-choice and not, for globalisation and also campaigning against it.

"So, I don't really ask anyone to celebrate the fact that we have a Taoiseach who is a gay man. But rather we should celebrate the fact that we live in a free country, in a democracy where we have a Taoiseach who happens to be gay but we are able to support or criticise him, due to our own beliefs and principles which to me is true freedom."

Irish Independent

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